Category Archives: Linguistics

Scientists apply Genetic Estimates to Homer’s Iliad

iliad-2-TOPHomer’s Iliad is one of the most famous works of Bronze Age Greece. Its date and composition, however, is one of the academically controversial. Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Reading applied the same techniques to researching genetic evolution (using the rate of genetic mutation) to the evolution of language. Using this method, they determined that the Iliad was written approximately 762 BCE +/- 50 years; a date consistent with historical theories.

“Languages behave just extraordinarily like genes.It is directly analogous. We tried to document the regularities in linguistic evolution and study Homer’s vocabulary as a way of seeing if language evolves the way we think it does. If so, then we should be able to find a date for Homer.” — Mark Pagel, Ph.D.

To learn more about the process and extensive findings, see the article published at Inside Science, “Geneticists Estimate Publication Date of the ‘Iliad‘” or the paper, published in the Journal of BioEssays.

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Linguists Use Modern Technology to Crack 18th Century Code

A Section of the Copiale Cipher

A team of linguists and computer scientists from America and Sweden have cracked one of the oldest, undeciphered codes in history: the Copiale Cipher. The hand-written work is more than 100 pages in length and is a combination of symbols and letters.

The linguists and computer scientists used a code-breaking technique to ‘crack’ the language – essentially viewing translation as decipherment. While the “breaking” of this linguistic code is a huge breakthrough for linguistics, it still does not solve the issues of translation of older, still-undeciphered languages.

“There are these books and ancient languages of real historical value that contain historical information that we just can’t get out yet, and that’s of interest to a lot of people,” – Dr. Knight

To learn more about this recent discover, see the article in the New York Times.

Maya Hieroglyphics – a study in Linguistics

National Geographic has an amazing article today about the evolution of our understanding of Maya hieroglyphs.

Our understanding of maya hieroglyphs is constantly evolving and has a special place in archaeological theory.